Police in Karnataka's Udupi district arrested three members of the Bajrang Dal in connection with an attack on Hindu Jagrana Vedike (HJV) member, Anil Poojary, on Tuesday. The arrest brought to light the tension between the two pro-Hindu groups in Karkala in the district.
The arrested persons are Sunil, Sharath and Prasad, from Nitte in Udupi, and the attack occurred on Sunday night around 10:30 pm at Anil's residence. The alleged attackers were armed with swords and wooden sticks, according to the FIR (first information report) filed in the incident. Anil was hospitalised following the attack.
While the police complaint by Anil at Karkala Rural Police Station does not detail the reason for the attack, police sources told TNM that the members of the pro-Hindu groups clashed over a disagreement. The two groups wanted to claim credit for the 'rescue' of a Hindu girl who was allegedly seen with a Muslim boy even though police officials said that there was no issue reported between the boy and girl.
The Karkala Town Police Station was alerted by an anonymous caller about a boy and a girl from different communities being seen in a public place together. It is unclear if the caller was from either Bajrang Dal or Hindu Jagrana Vedike. This is a common occurrence in some parts of coastal Karnataka, where vigilante groups are active, and will often tip off the police about inter-community couples in the pretext of reporting “misbehaviour”. In this case, police say that there was no misbehaviour when they followed up on the call. “They were both minors and they were seen together in a park and there was no misbehaviour. The father of the girl later came to the park and picked her up," a police official said.
After this issue came up, members of the Hindu Jagrana Vedike claimed credit for 'rescuing' the Hindu girl from 'love jihad'. This is a bogey term used by right wing groups claiming that men from the Muslim community are marrying women from other religious faiths, particularly Hindu women, and forcing them to convert to Islam.
But the claims made by Anil Poojary and the Hindu Jagrana Vedike did not go down well with Bajrang Dal members. "The accused and the victim in this case were together in the Bajrang Dal earlier and they were good friends. But Anil split from them and joined the HJV," said another police official.
According to police sources, on March 14 at night, the accused Bajrang Dal members turned up at Anil's residence angry at the fact that he was taking credit on social media. In a WhatsApp message, Bajrang Dal members responded to HJV claiming credit for reporting the presence of the minors to the police. "More than getting angry that a Muslim man approached a Hindu girl, few people are angry that Bajrang Dal's name has come up in this," the message read.
Following this, Anil was allegedly assaulted by Bajrang Dal members including Sunil, Prasad and Sharat who carried swords and wooden sticks. The complaint states that the Bajrang Dal members insulted Anil and pushed aside his mother during the assault.
Police officials investigating the case arrested the trio on Tuesday and are on the lookout for two more people – Jagadeesha and Sudhir – in connection with the attack. "We will be strict and take action on any violent incident between the activists," a police official said.